Last Updated on March 2, 2023 by Sam
It may seem like the best way from Hikkaduwa beach to Colombo is by train, but if you’re not careful you could easily fall for what is essentially a scam. Locals will tell you that the train is the best way to make the journey, but in our experience it left us out of pocket as we couldn’t even get on the train. This isn’t your typical type of scam, so it’s easy to fall for and lose your money. Find out how to avoid the Hikkaduwa to Colombo train scam in Sri Lanka below!
Looking for some other spots to visit on your trip? Check out our 2 week South Sri Lanka itinerary!
What is the Hikkaduwa to Colombo train scam?
There are several trains running from Hikkaduwa to Colombo each day, the majority of which only have unreserved seating in either 2nd or 3rd class. If you want a reserved seat then you need to book around 30 days in advance.
Our plan was to catch the 9am train as we thought it would give us more chance of getting a seat. We arrived half an hour before the train was scheduled to depart and bought our tickets.
After buying our tickets we went straight to the platform to wait for the train, and it was already relatively busy. The train was delayed and ended up arriving around an hour late, by which time the platform was packed with other travellers wanting to get to Colombo.
As soon as the train pulled in it became apparent it was already pretty much completely full with passengers. Not only were all the seats taken, but the aisles and doorways were also extremely busy with as many people as possible crammed into the available space.
When we were buying our ticket we asked whether 2nd class or 3rd class would have more space, and they assured us that 2nd class was always less busy. We trusted their advice and bought a 2nd class ticket, but when the train turned up there was just one second class carriage.
In contrast there were around five or six 3rd class carriages, but even they were completely full anyway. It seemed most of the other tourists had been told to buy 2nd class tickets, where there was virtually no space.
We checked all the carriages to see if there was space for us to squeeze on but they were all so full that people were stood in the doorways so we just couldn’t get on at all. To make matters worse we were also travelling with our luggage, so even if we managed to somehow squeeze on there wouldn’t have been space for our bags as well.
As the train was so full a lot of people ended up not being able to get on board before it departed. The train staff and station staff didn’t seem to care that tourists were unable to get on, even though we’d already paid for tickets and there wasn’t another train for around 5 hours.
We approached the staff of the station asking whether it was possible to get a refund as we were unable to board the train. Unfortunately the staff member who sold us the tickets was extremely rude and shouted at us to shut up despite us approaching him calmly, so we abruptly left the station to avoid confrontation.
On the whole, pretty much every Sri Lankan we’ve ever met has been incredibly kind and friendly towards us. Our experience at Hikkaduwa train station could not have been further from this and it’s a real shame for the country that such a rude person is working in a tourist facing role.
Outside the train station there were tuk-tuk and taxi drivers offering to take us to Colombo, trying to massively overcharge us for the privilege.
It hardly seems like a coincidence that there are lots of drivers waiting to take tourists to Colombo by road – it’s almost as if they know the train will be too busy to fit everyone on, so they try to take advantage of the situation to make easy money.
If it’s such a common occurrence though, surely the station shouldn’t be selling tickets beyond capacity knowing that some people won’t be able to board the train. The truth is they don’t seem to care though as it’s extra money for them, and it’s an easy way to get a few hundred rupees from unsuspecting tourists.
Although it is small money, it’s also a waste of your time which is why we wanted to write this article.
How to get from Hikkaduwa to Colombo
To avoid this train scam you’ll need to find a different way to get from Hikkaduwa to Colombo. Thankfully there are a few options to get between the two.
Our personal recommendation is to take the bus from Hikkaduwa to Colombo. When we were unable to get on the train we left the station and ended up catching a bus from the roadside about 5 minutes later.
The journey from Hikkaduwa to Colombo takes around 3 hours by bus and should cost around 300 rupees. There are regular buses running through Hikkaduwa to Colombo, so just flag one down at the side of the road, as they don’t actually depart from the town’s bus station.
In our experience you have a reasonably good chance of getting a seat when travelling by bus on this route. If the bus pulls up and there are no seats left then you can always opt to wait for another bus if you’d prefer to sit.
Find out more about travelling around the country by bus with our guide to public transport in Sri Lanka.
The fastest way from Hikkaduwa to Colombo is by taxi, which should take around 2 hours. A taxi should cost around 8,000 rupees to Colombo city, or around 10,000 rupees if you want to go to the airport.
Taking a taxi is obviously a more expensive option, but if you’re looking for speed and comfort then it’s a good alternative.
1st Class Train
As we mentioned earlier, the only way to get a reserved seat on a train from Hikkaduwa to Colombo is to travel in 1st class.
Unless you’re already in Sri Lanka then the only way to book these tickets in advance is to use a third party such as 12GoAsia. Although they do cost more than face value the tickets are still fairly reasonably priced, and realistically it’s the only option if you want to book in advance.
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